Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Plot Summary: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

This book has had much hype around it, even before its release. I am always wary of hype, because books don’t usually live up to it.

I thought this book was okay. I thought the paranormal aspects were fairly unique, and I really enjoy it when a story has a long family history associated with it. But I didn’t love the story. The pacing was too slow, and there were too many times when I was relaxed and not concerned about the characters. There were some intense moments, but they were few and far between, and I was easily lulled into a strange sense of security. This made it too easy to set the book down.

The characters weren't as developed as I wanted them to be, either. Ethan's voice felt too feminine to me. Actually, when I first started reading, I thought the story was from Lena's perspective, just based on the voice. Then, after I adjusted to Ethan's voice, he didn't feel real to me. His entire character felt cliche, like the teenage girl's ideal boyfriend, not what boys are actually like.

Then there was the setting. I have family both in the south and in rural Midwest, and I have gone to visit these places often. Each of them has a different feel, because the people do and say certain things. In small towns, people are both wary and insanely curious about outsiders (even family members who have visited countless times before). In the south, southern hospitality is intrinsic everywhere. Also, the vocabulary is different. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is supposed to take place in a rural southern town, but, to me, it didn't feel like one. We didn't get a sense of southern culture, nor do we get a feel for a rural setting. Sure, the authors captured the descriptions, the civil war, and the DAR well, but the rest felt like city folk writing about what they thought rural life was like. It didn’t feel authentic.

Then, there was the ending...for me, the ending can make or break a story.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

The whole story focuses on what choice Lena will make when the time comes. Except, when we finally get to the end, she doesn’t choose. Why? I can’t see a good reason for this. The one reason that could have kept her from choosing (her uncle) isn’t a factor any longer. So, why? I really don't see it.

Because of this, I found the ending to be contrived. I felt cheated, and that I was being manipulated into buying the next book, which looks like it’s shaping up to have the same conflict as the first. That just isn’t my cup of tea. So, even though I still enjoyed this book, I don’t feel compelled to read the next one. But that’s me. :)


A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I am in the middle of reading Beautiful Creatures right now and am feeling the same slight letdown it sounds like you experienced in your reading as well. That's the way it goes for such a hyped up book, I suppose. It's an enjoyable read, but I don't really feel any connection to Lena or Ethan yet.

Unknown said...

*shades eyes from the ending comments*

I'm roughly half-way through the book.

I *do* feel the setting was a bit contrived. I wasn't sure if it was just me. I live in the south--in a place very similar to Gatlin, actually. And there were some parts that were off. I don't want to say cliche, but it felt that way. I wasn't sure if it was just me--because this is my backyard and I'm hypercritical--or not. I'm still not 100% sure. But some of the details (i.e. the reference to War Between the States over Civil War...even the oldest recluse of the South doesn't call it that any more; my students don't know what WBS means over CW...) And no matter how many times it was emphasized how small the town was, there are STILL factions within the town. Not everyone cares about DAR. Where were the trailers? If this is a small town, there should be trailers, low class people among all these high class DARs... It felt a bit like a caricature of the south than the real thing.

I was actually fine with Ethan, though, and I've quite liked his voice. I felt it was a good idea to narrate from his POV, and his voice is probably my favorite part of the whole book so far (although Ridley seems fun--I just finished the first dinner with her).

I also felt the pace has been a bit slow. But I think that perhaps it's my bias again--I don't tend to like books that are really long, and tend to peak at about page 300. But then again, it did feel like it took a long time to get to Lena's problem. On the other hand, I appreciated that it wasn't love at first sight (not entirely, any way) and that the romance has been hesitating. So I'm still undecided...will let you know better when I finish the book!!!

Bish Denham said...

Well, three out of three bloggers agree. I suspect this is a book I don't have to rush out and read.

Tabitha said...

Bookshelf - yeah, I didn't feel any kind of connection to either Ethan or Lena through the whole book. It was really disappointing.

Beth - I also liked that Ethan was the narrator instead of Lena. I love that there are so many teen books with male protags these days, and this book is the first paranormal one I've read with a male protag. I love that. But I didn't like his voice. :) It could be that I was expecting Lena because of the way the summary was structured - it started with Lena instead of Ethan, which sets up certain expectations. It didn't help that I didn't love his character, either. *shrug* :)

Bish - yeah, I don't feel compelled to rush out and read the next one, either. :)

PJ Hoover said...

I read it and kept reading because I wanted to find out what would happen, so it did have that page-turning appeal.
I think there are going to be five books in the series. That is one heck of a lot of words.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've been dying to read this book. I appreciate the honest comments. There are so many graet books out there right now, maybe this one can wait a while. :-)

Stacy Nockowitz said...

If you read my review of Beautiful Creatures on my blog (, you will understand why I felt a sense of deja vu after reading yours! I agree wholeheartedly with your review.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I did keep turning pages on this book, but the ending disappointed me as well. It just felt like a long, drawn out whole lot of nothing. Why is it getting so much hype?

Tabitha said...

PJ - yeah, I heard that too. That's an amazingly large amount of words!! :)

Shannon - it's not a bad book, I just don't think it lived up to its hype.

Stacy - I just read your review and yeah, deja vu! :)

Sherrie - I have no idea where the hype is coming from. Except maybe that the publisher did a big marketing push, plus I think it's easy for young girls to get swept up in Ethan's character since he's the 'perfect' boyfriend. :)